The Archivist’s Nook: The Dress at the End of the Rainbow

If you were around during the Golden Age of Hollywood, you would have heard of Mercedes McCambridge. She had an Oscar winning role as Best Supporting Actress in the 1949 movie All the King’s Men. She was nominated for the same award in the 1956 film Giant. If you haven’t seen either of those classics or are more into horror, you might have heard her voice the demon Pazuzu in the 1973 film classic, The Exorcist. Indeed, she was renowned for her voice. Orson Welles, who, incidentally, addressed Catholic University’s first class of drama students in 1939, called her “the world’s greatest living radio actress.”

A Mercedes McCambridge publicity photo from the 1949 film All the King’s Men. (Photo: AP Wirephoto.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCambridge was also an artist-in-residence here at Catholic University from 1972-1973, lured, no doubt, by the University’s stellar drama program and its illustrious head, Father Gilbert Hartke (1907-1986). McCambridge once commented on Father Hartke’s sartorial tastes, which extended well beyond the Dominican robes of his order to include a silk Nehru jacket, a six foot long aviator scarf, a Russian fur hat and light blue canvas sneakers, among many other articles of clothing.

Most of these articles were gifts given to him by those who knew he loved clothing and costumes. And were it not for his extravagant tastes, we perhaps might not today have an absolutely precious piece of cinematic history: one of the dresses Judy Garland wore on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Articles in The Tower and The Washington Post allude to it, and rumors have swirled for years that Hartke had the dress, but it wasn’t until recently that Matt Ripa, Lecturer and Operations Coordinator at the Drama Department rediscovered it. I asked Mr. Ripa how he found the dress, and he responded that he too, “had heard rumors that Father Hartke was gifted Dorothy’s dress and that it was located somewhere in the building.” But “I could never get confirmation on exactly where it was located.” He explains:

I had looked in our archives, storage closets, etc. to no avail. I assumed it was a tall tale (of which many exist for Father Hartke). Our building is in the process of renovations and upgrades, so I was cleaning out my office to prepare. I noticed on top of the faculty mailboxes a trashbag and asked my co-worker to hand it to me. On the trashbag was a note for our former chair stating that he had found ‘this’ in his office and that he must have moved it when he moved out of the chair’s office… I was curious what was inside and opened the trashbag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoe box was the dress!! I couldn’t believe it. My co-worker and I quickly grabbed some gloves and looked at the dress and took some pictures before putting it back in the box and heading over to the archives. I called one of our faculty members and former chair, who always told me the dress existed and that it was in the building to let her know that I had found it. Needless to say, I have found many interesting things in the Hartke during my time at CUA, but I think this one takes the cake.

McCambridge gave Father Gilbert Hartke one of the dresses Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939) when she was an artist in residence in the early 1970s. Though rumors of the dress have swirled for decades, the dress was only recently located by Matthew Ripa in the Drama Department. Father Hartke is pictured here with student Carol Pearson holding the dress, ca. 1975-76. There are several photos of Hartke holding the dress in the University’s Special Collections. (Photo: Special Collections, The Catholic University of America)

As archivists, we were obliged to work on gaining additional documentation for this popular culture national treasure. Objects such as this one might be forged and passed off as authentic because of their cultural and monetary value. So how do we know the dress is the real thing? We do not yet know how Mercedes McCambridge got the dress, though we do know she was a Hollywood contemporary of Judy Garland’s and that they were supposedly friends. McCambridge was friends with many luminaries in the film and radio industry. Garland had died by the time the dress went from McCambridge to Father Hartke. Moreover, we have several photos of Father Hartke holding the dress, and the abovementioned articles from The Tower and The Washington Post referencing it. So the circumstantial evidence is strong.

Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress in June, 2021. Judy’s name is written by hand on the inside of the dress, as the second image shows. (Photos by Shane MacDonald and Maria Mazzenga)

 

Nonetheless, we reached out to experts in cultural memorabilia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Museum has several artifacts from the Wizard of Oz set, including a famous pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. Curator with the Division of Cultural and Community Life, Ryan Lintelman, an expert in the Museum’s Oz memorabilia, offered a wealth of information he’s gathered on the history of the film’s Dorothy dresses. There were several of them, though it appears that five, excluding the University’s dress, have been verified as probably authentic. All of the dresses have certain verifiable characteristics: a “secret pocket” on the right side of the pinafore skirt for Dorothy’s handkerchief, “Judy Garland” written by hand in a script specific to a single person who labeled all of the extant dresses in the same hand, for example. Apparently, the thin material of the blouse was prone to tearing when Garland took it off after filming, and a seamstress often repaired it before she donned it for the next shoot. The Hartke dress has all of these characteristics, including blouse tears where the pinafore straps sat on the shoulders.

Smithsonian staff members, from left, Dawn Wallace, Sunae Park Evans, and Ryan Lintelman examine the dress, June 2021. (Photo by Maria Mazzenga)

 

 

Lintelman, along with his colleagues at the Museum, Dawn Wallace, Objects Conservator, and Sunae Park Evans, Senior Costume Conservator, paid us a visit to view the dress. Employees at the Museum are not authorized to authenticate objects like this one, but they suggested that the dress was consistent with the other objects from the film, and that the evidence around the dress was strong.

Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz dress, once the province of myth, is now a real object in the University’s Special Collections. We can now preserve it in proper storage in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. By the way, if any of you readers have your own story connected to this dress, drop us a line!

A scene that needs no explaining… (Photo: Silver Screen/Getty)

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy (Washington, D.C. The Catholic University of America Press, 2002), 201.

“Father Hartke: Kudos from the President, A Look At the Past,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1975, B1. The article alludes to “the original gingham dress that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz,” hanging in his closet.

McCambridge talks about her relationships with various Hollywood figures throughout her autobiography, and specifically mentions her residency at Catholic University in the early 1970s in her autobiography, The Quality of Mercy (New York: Times Books, 1981), see pages 107, 189 for mention of her year as artist-in-residence. See also, Richard Coe,  “Backstage And Back In Town,” The Washington Post, September 9, 1972, C9.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: African American History-Related Collections

In his landmark 1990 scholarly work, The History of Black Catholics in the United States, Cyprian Davis presents a deeply researched history of African American Catholics in the United States. He proved that, while Black Catholics seemed invisible across U.S. Catholic history, in fact, the American Church has never been exclusively a white and European one. In fact, as he writes, “the African presence has influenced the Catholic church in every period of its history.” He concludes that for “[t]oo long have black Catholics been anonymous. It is clear they can be identified, that their presence has made an impact, and that their contributions have made Catholicism a unique and stronger body.”[1] In that spirit, we offer an overview of some of our richest materials related to the Black Catholic experience in the United States, including the papers of Father Cyprian Davis himself.

From left: Rothell Price; Bishop James Lyke, O.F.M, Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland; Father Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., and Leo Hodges, at a talk given by Bishop Lyke on the implementation of the Bishops’ Pastoral on racism, February, 1984. From the Davis Papers.

In 2015, Special Collections acquired the papers of Father Cyprian Davis. Davis, born Clarence John Davis (1930-2015) in Washington, D.C., was a historian and archivist. A convert to Catholicism in his teenage years, Davis expressed an early interest in the priesthood. He joined the seminary of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, where he became a novice in 1950, and took the monastic name Cyprian in 1951. Ordained a priest on May 3, 1956, Davis became the first African American to join the monastic community of St. Meinrad.

He began his academic career in 1948, studying at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1957. Davis then studied church history abroad at The Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a licentiate in 1963. He taught church history at St. Meinrad before returning to Louvain for his doctorate degree in 1977. Father Davis authored and co-authored several pioneering monographs, including Christ’s image in Black: The Black Catholic community before the Civil War and The History of Black Catholics in the United States. Davis’s papers include many unpublished manuscripts on Black history and Black Catholic history, as well as correspondence, academic papers, printed material, audiovisual records, ephemera, and a range of awards and honors. A finding aid for the Cyprian Davis papers can be found here.

For insights into how white Catholics sought to promote interracial activities within the Catholic Church in the first half of the twentieth century, researchers can consult the records of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York (CICNY). Father John LaFarge, S.J., founded the CICNY in 1934 to promote mutual understanding and social justice among Blacks and whites. The CICNY disseminated information and held meetings and conferences on Catholic teaching and race. Through the 1940s, the CICNY addressed issues such as the Scottsboro Boys’ case, lynching, communism, and efforts to open the defense industry to Black workers. They also regularly honored Catholic civil rights activists with a number of annual awards and celebrations, including the annual John A. Hoey Interracial Justice Award. The idea of interracial councils led to their formation in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. By 1954, 24 Catholic Interracial Councils had been created.

An undated photo of a gathering of members of the CICNY from the CICNY Records.

The CICNY continued well into the 1990s, but had declined markedly in activity and importance by the late 1970s. The Interracial Review, of full set of which can be found in the voluminous CICNY Records, one of its more important undertakings since its founding, ceased publication in 1966, although it was revived in a much less ambitious format in the 1970s. Several civil rights leaders, including A. Philip Randolph and Roy Wilkins, contributed to the journal. A finding aid for the CICNY can be found here.

Washington, D.C.- Related Collections

The Haynes-Lofton Family Papers are comprised of the personal papers of Catholic University of America alumna Euphemia Lofton Haynes, her husband Harold Appo Haynes, and their families. A native Washingtonian, Euphemia Lofton Haynes (1890-1980) received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Smith College in 1914, a Master’s in Education from the University of Chicago in 1930, and a Doctorate in Mathematics from Catholic University in 1943, making her the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Mathematics in the United States. She taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C. for 47 years and was the first woman to chair the D.C. School Board. She figured prominently in the integration of both the D.C. public schools and the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. The papers consist of correspondence, financial records, publications, speeches, reports, newspaper clippings, and photographs, and provide a record of her family, professional, and social life, including her involvement in education, civic affairs, real estate, and business matters in Washington. A finding aid for the Haynes-Lofton family papers can be found here. 

Educator and activist Paul Philips Cooke (1917-2010), a member of Washington D.C.’s Sacred Heart parish, lived most of his long life in the District. After earning a Master’s in English Literature from The Catholic University of America in 1942, and a Doctorate in Education from Columbia University in 1947, Cooke taught and served as president of the District of Columbia Teachers College until 1974.  He was an active member of the Catholic Interracial Council of the District of Columbia (CIC DC) for over 50 years. The collection includes correspondence, clippings, reports, meeting minutes, photos, pamphlets, and publications. A finding aid for the Paul Philips Cooke papers can be found here.

An image of the front page of the manuscript for Elliot Liebow’s 1967 book “Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men,” from the Liebow Papers.

For more on African American life in Washington, D.C. in the second half of the twentieth century, researchers may also consult the Elliot Liebow Papers. Liebow (1925–1994) was an American anthropologist, best known for his 1967 book Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men, a study of Black men in urban Washington, D.C. The book, based on his 1966 Catholic University of America Department of Anthropology doctoral dissertation “Behavior and Values of Streetcorner Negro Men” sold nearly a million copies, and though dated today in its methodology, was influential in its time. Beginning in 1990, he held the Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle Professorship at the National Catholic School for Social Service of the Catholic University of America. He died in 1994. Series 3 of the Liebow papers contains research material related to Tally’s Corner. Although some of the research material is subject to a 60-year restriction in order to protect the identities of the case study participants, the open material includes the original manuscript of Tally’s Corner, correspondence about the book, book reviews, and publicity material (e.g., ads and ephemera). A finding aid for the Liebow papers is currently underway and should be completed by early 2021. In the meantime, please contact the archives staff directly at lib-archives@cua.edu or 202-319-5065 for more information. 

Education Resource Websites

The Thomas Wyatt Turner and The Federated Colored Catholics website is one of our most well-used educational resources. The site revolves around Turner’s struggle to promote racial equality in the U.S. Catholic Church. In that struggle, we see how even people of good faith have often disagreed over the best strategies for winning the battle. Some have argued that African-Americans or other racial minorities have needed the chance to unite, gain power, and win respect from white majorities. Others have contended that convincing white, and indeed all Americans, to be colorblind—to not “see” race—has been the best plan. Such disagreements emerged among American Catholics in the 1920s and 1930s in debates between Dr. Thomas Wyatt Turner, an African-American layman, and Father John LaFarge, a white Jesuit and long time civil rights advocate. The Thomas Wyatt Turner and the Federated Colored Catholics website can be found here.

The Catholic Church, Bishops and Race in the Mid-Twentieth Century website features resources and documents related to the U.S. Catholic Bishops in the mid-twentieth century. While battles were waged against racist institutions in America in the decades prior, it was the 1940s–1960s that set the tone for the momentous changes in the history of African Americans. Often termed the “Second American Revolution,” the Civil Rights Movement of those decades sought the end of segregation across a wide swath of American society, including schools and other public organizations. The Catholic Church in the U.S. saw the struggle for equality within its own walls, and many church leaders were determined to not only free their institutions from segregation, but to work for its demise in the general population as well. While recognition of the Church’s work in civil rights has paled in comparison to the luminaries of the movement, several individuals and organizations made a mark nonetheless, overcoming resistance at times from within their own parishes and institutions. The website can be found here. 

In the 1930s and 1940s, comic books were one of the most popular forms of entertainment among the nation’s youth, combining as they did narratives, graphics, and low prices. Concerned over the possibility of the effects of such entertainment on the moral character of young people, the Commission on American Citizenship at The Catholic University of America worked with George A. Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio, to publishing a bi-monthly comic book, the Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact for distribution in Catholic Parochial Schools starting in 1946. The Treasure Chest was intended as a remedy to the sensationalism of traditional comics: it contained educational features, narrated the lives of saints, and presented adventure stories featuring realistic characters with what were considered wholesome values, like patriotism, equality, faith, and anti-communism.

By the early 1960s, the Treasure Chest was at the height of its popularity. In 1964, Joe Sinnott, the illustrator of Marvel Comics’ “The Fantastic Four,” teamed up with writer Berry Reece to produce a story depicting a U.S. presidential election. It was set in the future: the presidential election was supposedly that of 1976, the year of the nation’s bicentennial. “Pettigrew for President” lasted for 10 issues, following the campaign trail of the fictional Tim Pettigrew from the announcement of his candidacy through the national convention of his party. The candidate’s face was carefully hidden in every panel, until the final page of the final issue of the story, when Pettigrew is finally revealed: the first Black candidate for president of the United States! This site reproduces the entire “Pettigrew for President” series in a digital format. It places this unique comic book story in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, and provides background information on the creators of the series. The website can be found here.

For more on these materials and more see our newly-created LibGuide on African American History-Related Collections.

 

 

[1] Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (New York: Crossroad, 1990), 259.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Father John LaFarge, Jr. and The Catholic Interracial Council of New York

Father John LaFarge, Jr., S.J., a founder of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York, was one of Catholic America’s leading intellects during the first half of the twentieth century. He wrote and edited for the Jesuit weekly, America, for 37 years, wrote and published hundreds of articles and eleven books, co-wrote an encyclical, Humani generis unitas at the request of Pope Pius XI, and worked relentlessly, if not always successfully, to improve the circumstances of African Americans within the Catholic Church.

A 1958 gathering of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York, with Father LaFarge, second from left, Roy Wilkins, Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people 1955-1977, third from left, and George Hunton, on Wilkens’ left.

Though LaFarge titled his 1954 autobiography after the Jesuit Rules, The Manner is Ordinary, his early life was anything but average. Born in 1880 in Newport, Rhode Island to the well-known nineteenth century painter John LaFarge, and Margaret Perry LaFarge, a descendant of Benjamin Franklin and Naval Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, LaFarge enjoyed a privileged boyhood. Though he decided to become a priest at 12 years of age, he attended public schools in Newport, and graduated from Harvard University in 1901. He revealed his desire to become a Jesuit just before his ordination at the Seminary at Innsbruck, Austria. During his Jesuit[1] training, he spent time as a prison chaplain on Blackwell’s Island (Now called Roosevelt Island) in New York City. Of his experience there, he wrote, “Innsbruck and Woodstock [Seminary] were schools of knowledge, but Blackwell’s Island was a school of life and death.”

At Blackwell’s Island, he came into contact with large numbers of African American and impoverished people, and was impacted deeply enough by the experience to make civil rights the focus of his life’s work. His assignment to the Jesuit missions in St. Mary’s County in Southern Maryland from 1911-1926 saw his commitment to the African American Catholic population deepen, even as it became fraught with controversy.

Father John LaFarge was initially involved in the operations of the Federated Colored Catholics (FCC), a lay organization founded by Thomas Wyatt Turner. The FCC’s purpose was to promote Black Catholic equality within the church. LaFarge and Turner parted ways over differences in how to run the organization in 1932.

In fact, the African American Catholic community in the United States was small in the early twentieth century, hovering around 200,000 from the late nineteenth century to the early 1930s. Additionally, as historian Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., recounts, that population suffered from a lack of representation by Blacks among bishops, priests, and both male and female religious. Though African Americans sought to enter the priesthood and religious orders, their numbers remained extremely low due to racism within the church. Davis notes that the Black Catholic laity sought to fill the vacuum of leadership within the church, with several Black Catholic lay congresses organized by Daniel Rudd in the late nineteenth century, and the Federated Colored Catholics (FCC) organized by Thomas Wyatt Turner in the twentieth century.[2]

The leadership vacuum, however, would have a profound impact on how white priests like Father LaFarge interacted with the African American Catholics he sought to serve. LaFarge and Turner saw the role of black lay Catholics within the church differently. The FCC was founded in 1924 by Turner and several Black Catholic laymen who sought to address the absence of African-American clergy, the discriminatory practices of the Josephites and Catholic Universities, and the need for greater African-American representation on the boards of various Catholic welfare organizations. Father LaFarge served as an advisor to the group, but in the end they parted ways, as Turner sought educational equality among white and black Catholics within Catholic institutions, accepted lay organizations, and access to the priesthood. LaFarge, while denouncing racism and supporting a black Catholic apostolate, favored emphasis on integration and interracial cooperation.[3]

LaFarge also served as chairman of the executive board for the Cardinal Gibbons Institute, a Catholic school established in southern Maryland in 1924 for African American students. While the school served as an early endeavor to address the educational inequities within the church, LaFarge clashed with the school’s principals, Victor and Constance Daniel, over many of the same issues with which he disagreed with Turner, and the school closed in 1933.

The CICNY inspired the formation of Catholic interracial councils in cities other than New York. Here, members of the Chicago CIC gather in 1958.

 

Such experiences nonetheless informed LaFarge’s next venture, the founding of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York (CICNY) in 1934. By this time, he was well known as an informed clerical voice on racial issues in the United States, having written many articles on the topic for America, where he had served as assistant editor since 1926. The CICNY functioned under the auspices of the Archdiocese of New York City. Catholic social teachings and American democracy formed its underlying principles. LaFarge served as the CICNY’s chaplain, primary theorist, and guiding light from its founding in 1934 until he retired in 1962. George Hunton, who had been the secretary of the executive council of the Cardinal Gibbons Institute, served as the CICNY’s executive-secretary from its founding in 1934 until 1962. Hunton oversaw the daily business in the CICNY offices and served as the editor for its monthly journal, Interracial Review. Hunton and LaFarge, who for almost 30 years were the prime movers and visible representatives of the CICNY, were joined by Gerard Carroll, long time chair of the CICNY Board of Directors, in making the CICNY a stable and active organization that, despite its regional name and jurisdiction, possessed a national reach and profile. From meetings, intercollegiate conferences, and the publications disseminated through the organization’s Interracial Review, the CICNY influenced progressive thinking on racial among Catholics, especially in the 1930s and 40s, and formed the underpinnings of Catholic approaches to the civil rights movement in the post-World War Two period.

The records of the Catholic Interracial Council of New York are housed at the archives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] David Southern, John LaFarge and the Limits of Catholic Interracialism, 1911-1963 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press), 22-23; Robert Hecht, “John LaFarge,” in Michael Glazier and Thomas J. Shelley, eds., The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997), 790.

[2] Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1992. See also, Davis, “African American Catholics,” Glazier and Shelley, Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, 10.

[3] Southern, LaFarge, chapter 5.

The Archivist’s Nook: “A Shepherd in Combat Boots”: The Life of Father Emil Kapaun

Father Emil Kapaun, a military chaplain who died tragically as a prisoner of war in Korea in 1950, was known as “a shepherd in combat boots,” a perplexing phrase at first blush. How does one reconcile the image of the humble shepherd with that of a soldier in combat boots? Father Kapaun, who was declared a Servant of God in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, embodies both the fighter and the shepherd.

A portrait of Father Emil Kapaun, Servant of God. Image used courtesy of the Diocese of Wichita.

Born on April 20, 1916 to German and Bohemian Catholic parents just outside of Pilsen, Kansas, young Emil grew up laboring on the 160-acre farm where his family raised cows, chickens, pigs, and grew wheat and corn. Summers on the Kansas plains were sweltering hot, and winters, bitterly cold. Serving as an altar boy at Pilsen’s St. John Nepomucene Church, young Emil was influenced in his Catholic faith by the church’s pastor, Father John Sklenar. Witnessing the fervency of his faith as a boy, Father Sklenar, along with his parents, Bessie and Enos Kapaun, apparently marked Kapaun as a priest from a young age. Though young Emil began high school and college at Conception Abbey in northwest Missouri when he was 14, he returned home in the summers to work the fields with his father, brother, and members of the Pilsen farming community. His concentration on his studies was intense, and he did so well in his classes that he was known by his schoolmates as “the Brain.”[1]

Father Emil Kapaun attended The Catholic University of America, 1946-1948. He’s pictured here, left, under the sign. Image used courtesy of the Diocese of Wichita.

After completing his training at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1940, Kapaun was ordained a diocesan priest and assigned to the parish in which he’d grown up. But he had a taste for studying military and political affairs in Europe and elsewhere, writing to his brother Eugene about conflict in Europe throughout his time in the seminary. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he witnessed men his own age leaving Pilsen for service and notified his Wichita diocese bishop, Christian Herman Winkelmann, that he felt called to work as a military chaplain. The bishop refused, however, instructing him to remain as Assistant to Father Sklenar at St. John Nepomucene. He followed the events of the war, writing about them in his diary, noting the call for chaplains. He began volunteering part time at the military airfield at nearby Herington, Kansas, and wrote letters to local soldiers. His letters, sermons, and talks to soldiers interwove faith and military service. To one group, his biographer William Maher notes, he preached, “…a Catholic soldier will have his heart set on obedience and faithfulness to duty to service of his country and through that service, to the honor and glory of God.”[2]

Father Kapaun remained at the parish where he had grown up, but he didn’t feel comfortable replacing the priest who had been there more than 50 years, and to whose ways the parishioners had become accustomed. He again petitioned Bishop Winkelmann:

When I was ordained, I was determined to ‘spend myself’ for God. I was determined to do that cheerfully, no matter in what circumstances I would be placed or how hard a life I would be asked to lead. That is why I volunteered for the army and that is why today I would a thousand times rather be working deprived of all ordinary comforts, being a true ‘Father’ to all my people, than by living in a nice comfortable place with with my conscience telling me that I am an obstacle to many.[3]

Bishop Winkelmann finally agreed to allow Father Kapaun to train for a military chaplaincy. Kapaun began his military career in August, 1944 in a class of 145 chaplains. In addition to rigorous physical training involving long marches and calisthenics, Kapaun studied chemical warfare and military sanitation. He enjoyed military life, writing to a friend, “They want to toughen us up in a hurry and I really enjoy it.”[4] Among other things, he learned that he had to promote the religious life of everyone in his unit (no matter the faith tradition), travel from outpost to outpost among scattered troops, and comfort the sick and wounded, all of these instructions he put to use not only during World War Two, but in the Korean War as well. He eventually ended up serving in the China-India-Burma theatre of war operations, also traveling to Bermuda, the Azores, Casablanca, Tripoli, and New Delhi, celebrating mass and ministering to soldiers, refugees, and civilians during this time.[5]

Father Kapaun wrote his master’s thesis on religious schooling in U.S. Secondary Schools, and completed his degree in 1948. This is an image of his thesis’s cover page from the University Archives.

After receiving orders to return to the U.S. in April, 1946, Kapaun conferred with his bishop on furthering his education. He began studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1946. A master’s degree in education from the University would qualify him to teach at both Catholic and public schools in Kansas.

But alas, the military life still called him. He wrote his bishop in 1948 that “I believe I should offer myself for work in the Armed Forces, especially in this crisis.”[6] The crisis to which he referred was the uptick in tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over land access to West Berlin. The U.S. responded to the Soviet blockage of the city with its “Berlin Airlift” of supplies to the citizens of the former German capital. He reentered military service in 1948, and after a period of service in U.S.-occupied Japan in 1950, he was assigned to duty as chaplain of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment early in the Korean War. As chaplain, he ministered to the dead, heard confessions, and celebrated mass using the hood of a jeep as an altar.

Kapaun’s story has inspired devotion. For the past 11 years, a pilgrimage is held in his hometown of Pilsen, Kansas in late May. This pamphlet held in the University’s pamphlet collection recounts his story.

Kapaun saved 15 soldiers by dragging them to safety during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. He was captured by Chinese soldiers on November 2, 1950, and sent to a prison camp, where he died from illness and malnutrition. For his service and bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama in 2013 (the 60th anniversary of the end of Korean War). In 1993, Pope John Paul II made Father Kapaun a servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonization.

View the website devoted to Father Kapaun’s Canonization: https://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/father-kapaun/

 

 

[1] William L. Maher, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division (Shippensburg, PA: Burd Street Press, 1997), chapter 1,38.

[2] Maher, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, 45-49.

[3] Maher, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, 54.

[4] Maher, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, 54.

[5] Maher, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, 56.

[6] Maher, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, 68.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Special Collections – Your Virtual Classroom

Digital copies of textbooks from our Commission on American Citizenship can be found via our digital collections page. The Commission created civics textbooks used in most parochial schools in the United States, 1943-1970s.

Special Collections has thousands of free online digital objects for use in your virtual classrooms.

Our digital materials are organized by type:

  1. Digital Collections. A digital collection is a set of digital objects with minimal supporting information. These are either entire collections, or parts of collections that have been digitized and posted on our site with basic descriptive information such as collection description, title, date, and subject of object. We have 39 collections online, with materials ranging from Catholic University’s yearbook, The Cardinal, to The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact Catholic comic book.

    John F. Kennedy tours the North American College in Rome with Archbishop Martin J. O’Connor, Summer 1963. Kennedy met the newly elected Pope Paul VI during the same trip. From the Remembering President John F. Kennedy digital exhibit.
  2. Digital Exhibits. Digital Exhibits are selections of digitized materials curated by Archives staff. Our trained staff, in addition to guests from various University departments, have curated several online digital exhibits for public use. These range from historical tours of the University campus to selections from our collections related to Irish nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  1. Digital Classroom. The American Catholic History Classroom is a continuously-updated primary document site featuring a range of materials related to the American Catholic experience. The sites also feature contextualizing materials and educational resources created by historians. Topics range from the immigration and the Catholic Church to Catholics and Politics in the 1930s.

    Image from a Book of Hours from the Rare Books Collection. This Book of Hours dates from the fourteenth century, likely France. It was gifted by Msgr. Arthur Connolly in 1919. Interestingly enough, the front and rear pastedowns are fragments of a ninth- or tenth-century manuscript.
In 1964 the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact ran a series of panels on an African American candidate for president achieving the nomination by a major U.S. Party, as the final panel pictured here shows. You can read more about it in the Pettigrew for President classroom site.
  1. Rare Books. The holdings of the Rare Books Collection, some 70,000 volumes, range from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth-century books. We certainly don’t have all of these materials digitized, but you can find some of the rare books collection online.

 

  1. The Archivist’s Nook. Finally, Archives staff and guests publish timely and interesting blogposts related to Special Collections materials. Topics covered include everything from weird University happenings to short overviews of some of the interesting characters populating our collections.
History graduate student Mikkaela Bailey guest blogged on her experiences curating catechisms from our Rare Books Collection with her public history class last semester in this edition of “The Archivist’s Nook.”

Special Collections also has a limited capacity to digitize on demand, and we may have digitized materials available, though not yet online. Please contact Maria Mazzenga, mazzenga@cua.edu, if you have a request for a specific set of digital materials for use in your classes. Special collections staff are available for virtual assistance, just email us at lib-rarebooks@cua.edu with your requests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: An Apostleship of the Laity – The St. Vincent de Paul Society

An Apostleship of the Laity: The St. Vincent de Paul Society

Later this month, a mosaic of Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam will be dedicated in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington, D.C. At that time, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will gather in celebration of their 175th year of existence. Though the Society’s name comes from their patron Saint, Vincent de Paul, a seventeenth century servant of the poor, Ozanam was the chief force behind the establishment of the organization in Paris, France, in 1833. As such, the Society became a member of the Vincentian Family, a group of Catholic organizations that includes the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

On January 26th, 2020, a 30” x 20” mosaic of Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam will be dedicated in the Vincentian chapel or “Miraculous Medal Chapel,” of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington, D.C. The above is a likeness of the 4,000 stone mosaic.

Ozanam took his Catholic teaching seriously. A scholar of Catholic social doctrine, he was once accused of being all talk and no action. His response was to found a group of men whose goal was direct service to the impoverished of Paris. Soon after the founding, the members carried food and other necessities directly to the homes of the poor. Key to the Society’s identity is the “apostleship of the laity,” hence members were parish based and comprised of lay members who ministered to their own communities. Their 1834 annual report noted that:

We understand very well that charity must be done in secret, that the work must be unobtrusive. Here we are not strangers to one another; what we have done has been accomplished with the cooperation of one another. The principal end of our association is to do everything with one heart and one soul, of a sort that we recount to one another the different services we have delivered not to be adulated but to give advice and mutual encouragement, to give better service.[1]

“Frédéric Ozanam Accepted the Challenge of 1833,” cover, (Society of St. Vincent de Paul United States, 1933). This pamphlet commemorates the centennial of the establishment of the Society in the United States, emphasizing that they “accepted the challenge” to the lay apostleship to serve those in need.

Reflecting the necessity for such services, particularly in a rapidly industrializing world, the Society expanded rapidly outside of France. When Bishop John Timon of Buffalo, serving in St. Louis at the time, visited France and saw the work of the Society, he went about establishing the group’s first conference in St. Louis, Missouri in 1845.[2]

The Society’s rule called for “visiting the poor in their dwellings” and the distribution of “moral and religious books” especially to children, but in the United States, these activities expanded from activities like supplying food to needy families and distributing rosary beads to running thrift shops, day nurseries, and youth camps, visiting nursing homes, among other activities.

Modern photograph of the interior of the “Old Cathedral of St. Louis, Missouri, birthplace of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of the U.S.

The National Council in the United States began sponsoring foreign Councils in third world countries with its twinning program during the 1970s-1990s. Long-serving executive secretary Dudley Baker served thirty years, from 1955-1985, and helped establish many modern charitable organizations. Baker not only aided several presidents during his tenure, but also helped to modernize the society in America. Though the society in America has focused on disaster relief throughout its history, a greater emphasis has been placed on this recently, especially through the training of Rev. Ronald Ramson and the National Council’s Charity Seminars.

 

The Society is organized into five levels. The first level is the International Council in Paris, France that oversees the organization throughout the world. The second level is the National Council, which oversees each individual country’s society. The third level is the Diocesan Councils, of which there are 51 in the United States that oversee individual Councils in the society. The fourth level is the District council which oversees all the individual conferences throughout the United States. Lastly, at the fifth level are the conferences, based on the parish level. Headquartered in St. Louis, the Society has nearly 100,000 members in the U.S., and more than 800,000 members worldwide.

Thousands of young people from cities across the country have attended St. Vincent de Paul camps. Here, boys from Detroit learn to use the bow and arrow, circa 1970s.

The Society’s records offer an extensive collection of organizational files, but includes also publications and audio-visual equipment from the society. Among the files are organizational correspondence, records from executive meetings, yearly reports and bulletins, membership files for the society and regional files from different councils, and financial files for the Society’s thrift stores. Many of these materials date back to the beginning of the Society in the United States. Also, there are videotapes and audiotapes of society meetings.

 

See the finding aid for the records of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here

For blogposts on other Catholic charitable activities, see these posts on Monsignor John O’Grady, pioneer in Catholic charity: https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/9465/ and https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/9315/ as well as this post on the history of the National Catholic School of Social Work at The Catholic University of America: https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/10957/

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Raymond Sickinger, Antoine Frédéric Ozanam (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), chapter 3, “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” 61-62.

[2] The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, Michael Glazier and Thomas Shelley, eds. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997) p. 1249-1251.:

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: A Paradox of Uniformity – Catechisms in Rare Books and Special Collections

The Rare Books Collection at The Catholic University of America contains many treasures among its 70,000 volumes, ranging from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth century authors. Among these are nearly 300 Catholic catechetical texts: written works containing summaries of the beliefs of the Catholic faith compiled as teaching tools.

“A Catechism for Pastors by Decree of the Council of Trent in 1566,” also known as “The Catechism of the Council of Trent,” or the “Tridentine Catechism,” was first published in 1566. This is Rare Books and Special Collections’ oldest catechism.

In one sense, these texts, which span from 1566 to the 1980s, are remarkably similar. The Catholic catechism has contained the same several parts for nearly 500 years: The Apostles Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, discussion of the seven sacraments (Baptism, Reconciliation, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction), and the Lord’s Prayer. But there were slight tweaks to the catechism over time. For example, as Berard Marthaler points outs, a “medieval fascination with numbers” caused theologian Hugh St. Victor to organize doctrine into units of seven as a mnemonic device. Hence, catechetical teaching of the time featured doctrine organized into units of seven: the seven capital sins, seven petitions to in the Lord’s Prayer, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, seven Beatitudes, and seven virtues.[1]

“Catholic Anecdotes; or, the Catechism in Examples” (New York: 1873) by Mrs. J. Sadlier, also known as Mary Anne Sadlier. Two of the Sadlier family, Denis and James, migrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the 1830s and began publishing Catholic inspirational works. Mary Anne, (also an Irish Immigrant) and James married, and Mary Anne went on to publish more than 60 works related to Catholic devotional life. This volume is comprised of various stories underscoring devotion to Catholicism, but it also contains catechetical material, and is an example of how the basic teachings were sometimes merged with supporting texts.

By the Tridentine Era, so called for the Council of Trent that took place 1545-1563, a basic formula for the catechism was issued by the Council. This was partly due to the rise of Protestantism in Europe in the sixteenth century, but also due to a desire to teach the fundamentals of the faith on a regular basis using a uniform text. The Tridentine Catechism issued by the Council of Trent in 1566 contained the basics of the modern catechism: Apostles Creed, seven sacraments, Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

This “Illustrated Catechism” published by the Confraternity of the Christian Doctrine in 1944 aimed at educating younger children in Catholic teaching.

The uniform content of most of the catechisms produced after 1566, however, did not mean they would all look exactly the same. Coinciding with the rise of the printing press in Europe, the catechism could be reproduced in multiple languages, and with a variety of designs.

By the twentieth century, Pius X (Pope from 1903-1914) turned his attention to improving catechetical instruction once again, and emphasized greater uniformity in such instruction, and instruction in the sacraments at younger ages. Certainly, this would be more feasible as literacy spread throughout the Christian world, and as small, portable catechisms became easier to produce. The catechisms, uniform as they are in general content, reflect the cultures and trends from which they emerged.

This image from The Visualized Catechism published by the Trinity Guild in 1947 uses a more unusual style of graphic illustration—stick people—but again, it covers the same basic material.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The catechisms can be viewed by appointment; email: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu or call 202-319-5065.

 

 

 

[1] Berard Marthaler, Catechesis: “A Semantic Evolution”? Liturgical Ministry 18 (Winter 2009), 1-10, 4.

The Archivist’s Nook: Two Emperors and a Baby: The Strange Journey of the Iturbide-Kearney Papers

Our tale begins with the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Our key figure is that of Agustín de Iturbide, who reigned as the emperor of Mexico from 1822 to early 1823, following the ten-year period of warfare and instability that culminated in Mexican independence. Iturbide, who advocated breaking away from Spain, also embraced monarchy and strong ties to the Catholic Church. Initially popular and a successful unifier of diverse groups favoring independence, Iturbide I was forced to abdicate in March 1823 as a result of corruption and opposition to monarchism within the government and the general population. He left for Europe with his family, but was executed in 1824 after returning to Mexico in answer to requests from his supporters to free the country from Spanish forces remaining in Veracruz and a possible reinvasion. Iturbide’s overthrow and the abolition of the empire did not prevent his supporters from viewing his family as an imperial one.

Flag of the First Mexican Empire, 1822-23. Agustin Iturbide I designed the flag of the first Mexican Empire in 1821, the colors of which are still used today, while the coat of arms has changed over time. The three colors of red, white, and green originally represented the three guarantees of the Plan of Iguala, the act declaring Mexican independence from Spain: Freedom, Religion, and Union. In the place of the Spanish emblem for Mexico, the first Iturbide resurrected the Tenochtitlan symbol for Mexico City, an eagle perched on a cactus holding a snake in its beak. With it, he hoped to link the upcoming Mexican Empire with the old Aztec version.
Plan de Iguala, 1822, also known as the Plan of the Three Guarantees, was Mexico’s final stage in its war for independence from Spain. The Plan was crafted by Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero. The Archives holds many documents related to the Iturbide family and the Mexican War for Independence, including an original copy of the Plan de Iguala. A digital copy of the Plan in its entirety can be found here.

Agustín de Iturbide y Green was the son of Emperor Agustin’s second son, Ángel María de Iturbide y Huarte (1816 –1872), who met his mother, Alice Green, while serving as an attaché of the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. Green (1836–1892) was the daughter of Captain John Nathaniel Green, granddaughter of U.S. Congressman and Revolutionary War Colonel Uriah Forrest, and great-granddaughter of George Plater, the sixth Governor of Maryland.

Born in 1863, Agustín de Iturbide y Green was Ángel and Alice’s only child, which bestowed significance on the boy, at least in the eyes of Maximilian I, the European Habsburg-descended emperor of the Second Mexican Empire installed by France’s Napoleon III in 1864. But Maximilian’s power was unstable from the beginning, with his regime requiring continuous French military support amid repudiation among the local Mexican population. In an effort to curry favor with the Mexicans, he compelled Ángel and Alice Iturbide to cede their two-year-old son Agustín as a future heir, believing that having a child of imperial Mexican lineage as an heir would increase his legitimacy.

An undated photo of Agustín de Iturbide y Green, image taken by a student at Georgetown University.

Timing is everything, as they say—the U.S. was so preoccupied with its Civil War that it barely reacted to the French invasion of its southern neighbor, at least initially. France withdrew the forces propping up Maximilian in 1866 partly because the post-Civil War U.S. beqan asserting the terms of the Monroe Doctrine, and partly for its own reasons, with the forces of Mexico’s Benito Juarez eventually overthrowing the European emperor. Maximilian was arrested and executed in June of 1867.

But what of young Agustín de Iturbide y Green? Perhaps you are wondering about how Ángel and Alice managed to hand over their only son to an emperor installed by the French? Well, first, they were certainly convinced that their son, the grandson of the first emperor of independent Mexico, was part of a new imperial lineage based on European practices of succession. Failing one of Agustin I’s own children succeeding him as emperor (imperial Mexican forces lacked the military power to back up such a claim, while Napoleon III put French troops behind Maximilian), perhaps they saw it as the best option at the time—setting their son up as a future emperor. We do not know their exact thinking for sure. They did receive a pension for handing over the child. However, Alice quickly became distraught by the absence of her son, and went about trying to get him back. She and Ángel were exiled after her pleas for the return of her son fell on deaf ears in Maximilian’s court. They eventually came back to the U.S., where Alice appealed to Secretary of State William Seward, who told her that he could do nothing, as she had signed adoption papers, but nonetheless worked diplomatic channels to arrange a visit in Europe between Alice and Maximilian’s wife, Empress Carlota (Charlotte of Belgium) to return her child. Carlota, too, rejected Alice’s entreaties.

When it was clear to Maximilian that he was doomed, he sent the then four-year-old Agustín to Havana, Cuba, to be reunited with his parents. They returned to Washington, D.C., where Ángel and Alice worked at the Mexican embassy. After his Father died in 1872, Alice raised Agustín, who eventually became a professor of languages at Georgetown University. Two years after Alice died in 1892, Agustín married a British woman, Lucy Eleanor Jackson, though the marriage did not last.

Louise Kearney Iturbide, 1915, photograph taken by Agustín at the time of his marriage to Louise.

As an adult, Agustín lived near the family of Louise Kearney, a D.C.-born daughter of the Brigadier General James Kearney. When he began showing interest in Louise over her sister, Estelle, the latter did everything she could to keep the two apart. Louise writes in her account of their meeting, “there is no trouble like family trouble, and nothing more incurable than the mental disease of jealousy,” the sisters “were too closely united to be pulled apart without pain.”[1] Despite her family’s disapproval, Louise and Agustín married on July 5, 1915. They remained married until his death in 1925 from tuberculosis. Louise would live until 1967.

As for how the papers ended up at the Archives: Louise Kearney loved to travel. Msgr. James Magner, who performed many roles on campus and left the Archives a substantial museum collection, often took groups around the world to see a variety of holy sites. Louise accompanied one such group to Europe in 1950 and became friends with Magner. Louise donated the Kearney-Iturbide collection to the Archives via the Magner collection.

Please see the Finding Aid to the Iturbide-Kearney Papers.

For more on Louise Kearney’s family, see our post on her great grandfather, Alexander Louis Joncherez.

[1] “Autobiography,” Iturbide-Kearney Family Papers, American Catholic History Research center and University Archives, see digitized copy of Louise Kearney’s account.

The Archivist’s Nook: Local Angles – D.C. History at the Archives

I recently presented on our Washington, D.C.-related collections at the Conference on High Impact Research held at American University here in the District. I was asked simply to talk about collections in the Archives related to Washington, D.C. The audience was an interdisciplinary group of academics at American University. As a participant, I learned about collections at the DC Public Library, George Washington University, and American University, but I also compiled a list of our own D.C.-related collections, something we surprisingly hadn’t done until now. Of our 431 manuscript collections, 13 have materials related to D.C.  Our D.C. collection materials date back to the eighteenth century with the Brooks-Queen Family Collection, and extend into the 1990s with the Paul Philips Cooke Papers.

“All kinds of Repairing and Painting done with neatness and dispatch,” according to this receipt for a wagon brake from a wagon and carriage maker operating in Northwest Washington, D.C. in 1880. From the Brooks-Queen collection.

We like to say that “if it’s Catholic and it’s national, we probably have it,” because we have so many collections related to national Catholic history. However, we also have some local records of interest to researchers seeking insight into local Catholic life. The records of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Washington, D.C., for example, document the efforts of this Catholic institution to attend to the spiritual and material wants of the poor in the city from the 1940s through the 1960s. Other Catholic records include those of Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. and the Washington Catholic Evidence Guild.

For the horticulturally-minded historian, the Rose Society of Brookland minutes chronicle the organization’s activities from 1912-1920. Above, the cover of the organization’s book of minutes.

 

Our local materials are not exclusively Catholic. The Brooks-Queen collection is comprised of materials related to the founding families of Washington, D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood. Another Brookland-related collection is the Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, which contains hundreds of letters from Woodson’s husband and daughter to Woodson, who lived with her family in Brookland in the early twentieth century.

 

 

Charlotte Parker Woodson, native of Brookland in Washington, D.C. married Victor Tyree, another native Washingtonian, in Lima Peru, in 1917. Charlotte’s mother, Cecilia, kept this newspaper clipping of the marriage she could not attend in her papers, now held here at the Archives.

 

Nor are our local materials exclusively documents. The archives has digitized more than a thousand images from the collection of Terence Vincent Powderly, most of them related to Washington, D.C. and the vicinity. Better known as the head of the Knights of Labor, a union whose membership swelled under his leadership in the 1880s, Powderly was also an amateur photographer. Powderly lived in Washington, D.C. in the early twentieth century, when he served in a variety of bureaucratic posts.

 

 

G Street Blacksmith: Caption: This image from the Terence Powderly Photographic Prints shows a blacksmith on G Street in Washington, D.C., 1913.

Powderly photographed a great variety of subjects bearing on social, economic, and political life at the turn of the century in both Europe and America, but of the 1300 images that are digitized, 900 are related to Washington, D.C., where Powderly lived from 1897 until his death in 1924.

 

For a full list of the Washington, D.C.-related collections, see:

https://guides.lib.cua.edu/c.php?g=942599

The Archivist’s Nook: The Provenance and Providence of a Public Historian

This semester, we said goodbye to Dr. Timothy Meagher, University Archivist and Curator of the American Catholic History Collection at The Catholic University of America. In addition to his service as University Archivist, Meagher was Associate Professor with the Catholic University History Department, where he regularly taught Irish-American and immigration history. Though we will miss him at the Archives, we know he will be happily plugging away at his magnum opus in his “retirement”: a comprehensive history of Irish America.

Provenance is a word archivists love. It refers to the origin of a collection of archival materials, yes, but embedded in those origins is identity. For this reason, archivists use provenance as an organizing principle for their records and collections. In other words, we try to maintain and organize materials as faithfully as we can to the intention of the original creator and/or organizer of the collection, in order to preserve the integrity and identity of the collection itself.

Dr. Timothy Meagher at his desk when the University Archives was still in the Mullen Library Building. A generous grant from NCSSS Professor Dorothy Mohler enabled a move to a larger facility in Aquinas Hall, which Meagher and then Assistant Archivist W. J. Shepherd oversaw.

Meagher’s own origins are manifest in his career. Certainly, his own Irish and Catholic ancestry inspired his study of Irish America. But he also occupied a unique position as both an academic historian and a public one.  While completing his Ph.D. in history at Brown University in the early 1980s, he taught history in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. But after four years, that job ended and he found himself unemployed. “There were no historian jobs,” he says of the time. So he improvised. There was a position as Assistant Archivist at the Archdiocese of Boston Archives. “Jim O’Toole was there, a historian himself getting a Ph.D. from Boston College.” The two formed a lasting friendship, with O’Toole becoming a prominent scholar of both archival practice and American Catholicism and who in fact, has served on our archives’ advisory board since its inception in 2002. For Meagher’s part, he saw that there were potentially multiple uses for the skills of a historian.

A 2003 photo of Meagher and Dr. Yuki Yamazaki, a former history student at Catholic University and employee of the Archives, examine an artifact from our collections, a Japanese anti-Christian edict dated from 1682.
Archivist’s favorite: Meagher especially appreciates these vestments worn by Archbishop John Carroll. Ordained in 1790, Carroll was the first bishop and archbishop in the United States. The vestments date to ca. 1750-1800.

In the late 1980s, Meagher made his way from Boston to Washington, D.C., where he had years earlier graduated with his Bachelor’s in History from Georgetown University. His interest in public history was now heightened by both his work in archives and a concurrent rejuvenation in the museum field, especially in the area of exhibition and public programming. He speaks fondly of his work with the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he served as Program Officer until accepting his post at Catholic University. The NEH required those who worked in public history institutions to work directly with relevant scholars in the academy, “we had historians and museum people coming in and evaluating the quality of the exhibits we funded—there were some great conversations.”

Having spent seven years making humanities scholarship accessible to broader audiences, Meagher decided it was time to move on. He was particularly interested in the museum collection at the University Archives when he began working here in 1997. From the start, his primary mission was using the archival materials in our collections to teach history to a variety of audiences. “There was a move within the Catholic Church at that point to save material culture.” At the time, few in the field of Catholic archives knew much about preserving sacred objects, so Meagher organized the Saving Sacred Things conference in 1999 to address the matter.

In 2018, the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives received the American Catholic Historical Association’s (ACHA) Distinguished Service Award. From left, ACHA President Father Richard Gribble, Meagher, Reference Archivist Shane MacDonald, and Education Archivist Maria Mazzenga attend that year’s annual meeting to receive the award.

Drawing from his experiences working with professionals in a range of cultural institutions, Meagher expanded the Archives’ outreach and educational programming dramatically. “I was aware that there were other places doing public outreach in archives. I knew people at NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] and other places who put together educational packets using their archival materials.” So he worked with staff and teachers to put together packets related to a variety of aspects of Catholic history for Catholic high school students with materials from our archive. These formed the basis of the now fully digital American Catholic History Classroom an online education site featuring hundreds of digital documents, photos, and teaching resources. “We were trying to teach young people how historians solve historical problems. To look at source material and figure out what happened. We tried to do it with this material related specifically to Catholic life. No one else was doing it on a broad basis. A whole dimension of American life, we wanted to fill it with good history. Our collections lend themselves to understanding national Catholic history.”

Today, the Archives’ outreach and educational programming is thriving.  Thank you, Professor Meagher!